Rare Reagan letters to Hollywood friend reveal life in the Oval Office, including 'leaks,' 'media' and 'JFK'

Newly discovered letters from the late President Ronald Reagan show a "unique and often controversial side" of the Gipper -- which has been outside the reach of the public and scholars -- on issues in the news today, including the president's feeling of poor treatment by the press, criticism of people within his administration leaking to the press, and supporting Israel and its government, among others.

The collection of 40 Reagan letters that offer a view "behind the Oval Office doors" into his presidency went up for sale by the Raab Collection on Thursday and is valued at $200,000.

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"These letters show Reagan's real personality," Nathan Raab, principal at the Raab Collection, told Fox News. "They are meant to be private communications to an old friend from his Hollywood days. He felt he could speak openly and honestly."

A rare collection of 40 letter from the late President Ronald Reagan now on sale.

A rare collection of 40 letter from the late President Ronald Reagan now on sale. (Raab Collection)

Raab points out there are some "rarities" in the mix, including one letter written from Air Force One in the collection from Douglas Morrow's heirs. Morrow was a Hollywood screenwriter and film producer who sought to cast Reagan in The Stratton Story, a biography of baseball player Monty Stratton, who was disabled in a hunting accident. Morrow won an Academy Award for his 1949 script.

“Now let’s get down to the real frustration – the leaks. Doug, I’ve never seen anything like it and we’re trying everything but a ‘plumber’s squad’ to find and clobber the guilty," Reagan wrote on January 10, 1983.

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He added, "I’m convinced they are at a lower level and yes they are grinding their own axes with no regard for us or what we are trying to do. They are responsible for the stories of feuds and in-fighting, which I assure you are untrue.”

Paul Kengor, the author of "God and Ronald Reagan" and Grove City College professor of political science, told Fox News it's a "remarkable" collection that shows "the true Reagan in many ways."

"I've always been struck by the humility and humanity in his private letters," Kengor said, pointing specifically to the letter in which Reagan wanted to visit a black family targeted by the Ku Klux Klan without media attention.

“It gets frustrating," Reagan wrote in January 10, 1983 letter. "A black family back here had a cross burned on their lawn. I visited them. I wanted to do it without press so they couldn’t say (as they did) that I was doing it as an image building device. There was no way I could do it my way. We were a parade all the way.”

Kengor said it shows the "true Reagan" on racial issues.

"He did that as a purely private gesture, even as it did get reported," Kengor added. "This is highly relevant right now because of the widely reported remark that Reagan made to President Richard Nixon in 1972 regarding the African delegation to the United Nations. Some leftists are cruelly and unfairly using that 1972 remark to try to portray Reagan as racially insensitive."

Kengor notes, "To the contrary, Ronald Reagan was no racist...Sadly, the huge number of liberals exploiting that 1972 Reagan private remark to Nixon will no doubt ignore this private remark from 1983."

President Ronald Reagan and his friend from his Hollywood years, Douglas Morrow, in the Oval Office.

President Ronald Reagan and his friend from his Hollywood years, Douglas Morrow, in the Oval Office. (Raab Collection)

The former Hollywood actor added in another letter that he had a million "examples of press dishonesty," going after a CBS special in one letter, lamenting a report that connected poverty to his economic program. "They weren't," he wrote.

He even commented on President John F. Kennedy sneaking women into the White House.

“It’s the South Lawn gauntlet you have to run. Yes, a President once smuggled pretty little cocker spaniels [women] in and out of the White House but believe me that can [be] done only as long as he’s not with them. Now don’t jump to a false conclusion – I’m not engaged in that sport," Reagan wrote in 1983. "But I have been able to meet with some important figures with no press awareness.”

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In one of the 1985 letters, Reagan told his friend, who wanted to be a civilian sent into space, "I'll continue to plug but don't over-train. What with the international program plus such things as the 'first teacher' (Christa McAuliffe) idea it looks like there is a waiting line out the building."

Aboard Air Force One, in 1984, Reagan admitted he was "flat when the curtain went up" in his debate against former Vice President Walter Mondale in their first debate.

Reagan said he was "betting on" the Soviet Union to release the hostages prior to the 1980 election as a way to ensure a "Carter win."

Former President Ronald Reagan admitted to his friends that he fell flat in the first presidential debate against former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Former President Ronald Reagan admitted to his friends that he fell flat in the first presidential debate against former Vice President Walter Mondale. (Raab Collection)

In classic Reagan fashion, he made a quip about being able to walk on water politically, writing, “Just give me an ‘overnight’ on the Red Sea but bring your rubbers. The bottom may still be wet.”

On his support for Israel, Reagan pointed out the irony.

“On the day of the Sinai return, while I was on the phone to Prime Minister (Menachem) Begin and he was telling me I was the best friend Israel ever had, a group of Jewish demonstrators were out in front of the White House protesting my anti-Israel attitude," he wrote in 1982.

And in another letter he praised British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, saying, "All this talk of some women about equality is foolish. The plain truth is that they are superior, as she clearly demonstrated. I don’t know about you but I don’t mind a d—m bit that they are. As a matter of fact, it’s rather comforting."

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He added, "During the recent Summit one of our members – leader of one of the seven nations – gave Margaret Thatcher a bad time. Later I said to her that he was certainly out of line and shouldn’t have talked to her that way. She pleasantly and calmly said, ‘Oh – women know when men are being childish.’”

The Raab Collection has since its founding in 1989 carried the most important and largest archives of Reagan letters to reach the market.